Oppressed by Christmas, or Feelin’ Scroogey

It’s Christmastime.  We are all happy at Christmastime, and filled with love for our fellow man.  But I’m not.  I am really struggling with it this year.  I want to be happy and filled with Yuletide cheer, but there is no cheer in me.  And that’s a shame, because there are expectations to be met.  Since I love the people holding these expectations, I don’t want to let them down.  So I go through the motions of putting up a tree, and buying gifts I know we can’t afford, and feigning glee at getting gifts we don’t need and I don’t want, and just generally putting up a facade that I don’t feel.  I know that not wanting to do it is a betrayal of sorts to my Christmas-happy husband, and my mom who desperately wants to play “Happy Family” from 1,000 miles away.  They won’t make me do any of this if I don’t want to, but my not wanting to will make them very sad.  So I don’t admit to not wanting to.  But there is a cost.  I’m tired of paying it.

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The baby that would have been

We lost a baby last week.  It wasn’t a baby that had been born–I was only 10 weeks along in pregnancy–but it was surely a baby that was taking shape in our heads.  It’s a wierd kind of grief, not for a child I knew, but one I’d imagined.  I’m not lain low, crying in a corner.  It’s more like little twinges of sadness, for the cookie recipe that won’t be passed down, and the Christmas stocking pattern that won’t be crocheted and have an owner.  I am simultaneously grateful for and irritated by the people that want to handle me with kid gloves, like I’m about to break.  I know they don’t know what to say, and are just feeling their way around my state of mind, trying to be kind and give me what I need.  I want to shout that I am just the same as I was last week.

Except, of course, I’m not.   

We hadn’t been trying for a baby.  This was a surprise.  A surprise that we both got excited about.  That makes it harder to lose.  But it also makes us feel like we are on surer footing about this whole parenthood thing.  Now we will try.  This lost baby can be the one that prepared the way for the baby to come.  The one that will make it.

Please God, let the next one make it.  The loss of one is bearable.  I’m not so sure that I could shrug off two. 

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The best meal I ever ate

I normally think of fine dining as occurring either in my own house with fancy recipes we’ve tried for fun, or more likely at restaurants where the price point comes with three dollar signs.  I can be a food snob.  But I was reminded recently of what I still consider to be the best meal I ever ate, and how judgments like that can be completely situational.

Way back in 2005, Mr. L and I (who were not yet Mr. and Mrs.) decided that Michigan was no longer the place we wanted to be, so we loaded up a U-haul and moved to Carolina–Columbia, in fact.  That sentence makes it sound easy, but in fact, it was a bit of a nightmare.  We packed up our possessions, loading a U-haul, attaching a car carrier, and filling another car with all of our stuff.  We are procrastinators; we should have gotten going on packing and purging weeks before we did, but we were lazy.  The price was two solid days of saying, “Oh my god, why do we own so much stuff? How are we going to get all of this in the truck?”  This was punctuated more than once by my sitting on the tailgate of the truck crying.  It sounds pretty pathetic in hindsight, but at the time, it was simply awful.

We finally got everything loaded and our apartment cleaned, got the dogs and the cat in the car, and started driving south nearly an entire day late.  We rode for 17 hours, me in the car, Mr. L in the truck with car hauler attached.  My cat meowed pitifully from inside her carrier for all 17 hours.  All 17.  I love her to pieces, but jeez, Louise! I wanted her to shut up.

Finally, after what seemed an enternity of gas and brake, gas and brake, traffic jams, getting lost, stopping and starting and once turning the truck around on the side of a mountain, accompanied by that infernal yowling, we drove into Columbia, South Carolina, our new hometown.  We had never seen our new apartment, and had chosen it simply for the convenience of it being owned by the same management company so we could transfer our lease.  We arrived to find the office closed, and had to wait for someone to come open up to give us keys to the new place, after which all of that loading had to be unloaded.  Upstairs, since the new place was on the 2nd floor, a fact I had forgotten.  

Just at the point that I was again about to sit down to sob on the fender, Mr. L said, “Hey, didn’t I see a Cracker Barrel across the street?”  We tossed the critters in the new apartment, locked the car and truck, and walked on over.  We were a mess–sweaty, road rumpled, at the point of complete mental exhaustion.  The hostess took us to a back table right away and said, “You look like you need some coffee.  I’ll send the waitress right over.”  The kind waitress came quickly to take care of drinks, then when we told her we were moving, said sincerely, “Welcome to South Carolina.  We’re so glad you are here!”  I then proceeded to order the most comfort-foody meal I could find on the menu: meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans, with little corn muffins on the side.   It was not gourmet food.  It was not fancy, or particularly creative, or organically grown and thoughtfully curated.  It was, however, an absolute balm to my weary soul.  It was a meal I will never forget, because it gave me respite and nourishment, and a sense that we were home now.  From here, it was all strawberry pie–which, by the way was also very good. We’d be okay.  And we have been, ever since.  

Meatloaf at Cracker Barrel.  A welcome port in life’s storm.  Best meal ever.

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Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Karen, the lovely seamstress over at Did You Make That?, had a pattern giveaway a couple of days ago, and guess who won!  That’s right, this girl!  So I now have a copy of Simplicity pattern 1606 on the way, which looks like this: 

1606

Oooh, now I get to go to the fabric store to pick out just the right thing to make it out of. I’m thinking it needs to be something light and summery, but with a good drape. Hooray!

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Back on the wagon

I have gained 8 pounds in the last month. I don’t feel like I ate differently (okay, maybe we’ve eaten out more), but I’ve been lax about working the gym into my schedule, and the result is tight clothes. More worrying than that is that my husband’s quarterly blood checks for his diabetes control caused his doctor to be rather stern about standing on a precipice and needing to decide right now if he was going to back away from it, or fall over it and let the disease take its course.

I hate to be the bad guy. I hate to nag and say, “No, you really shouldn’t order fries.” And I have my own issues with seeking out convenient comfort foods in times of stress or low income, which means sweets, and starches, and fatty things. If only cucumbers could satisfy that comfort food itch, right? But since he tends to follow my lead and order salad if I’m ordering salad or dessert when I order dessert, or cook lunch at home if I’ve cooked breakfast at home, or go for a walk or bike ride if I’m going to the gym, I think it has to be on me to push us both back into better habits. After all, being the bad guy is way better than needing to be a kidney donor, right?

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Doing what needs to be done

I don’t love my job.  I work for a big corporation, and sometimes the decisions of the upper management here seem opaque.  They prioritize profits over the needs of the workers, or of the students we serve, and admittedly some of our recruitment tactics seem like they take advantage of our students’ lack of sophistication.

On the other hand, I don’t hate my job.  I have my little library world carved out here.  I feel necessary, I get to do basically whatever I want, I get a nice paycheck relative to the norm in my profession, and even though I have seen it a hundred times, I still get a little verklempt at graduation.  Those are my kids walking across that stage, every one of them. 

I am certainly open to other career paths.  I have days I worry about my long-term stability with this company, and days I shake my fist and think, “Those dirty double-crossers!”  I know there is no moving up here unless I leave the library and go for a deanship–and I am rock solid on not wanting that headache!  But I still see no reason to take a big pay cut to go somewhere else, like the place I interviewed last week.  If the interview had been stellar, and the organization had seemed like a perfect fit, maybe I would be working harder on realigning my budget, or selling a car, or pushing my husband to get a day job, like Mom thinks I should be.  But it wasn’t.  There weren’t enough plusses to the new place to make up for the big minus. 

And can I just take a minute here to rant about the practice of not putting an accurate starting salary in the freakin’ job announcement?  If I had known from the get-go that the job would be a 25% cut from what I make now, I never would have applied at all.  I and they would have both been saved time.  Post it, so I can know if I can afford to apply.  Sometimes in library world, people act like we should be willing to do this work for free because it is a calling.  I am passionate about libraries, but this is my job.  I have to make money at it to live, and acting like salary discussions are dirty and cheapen the hiring process is just ludicrous. 

I know I complain about my workplace, and so to a large degree, it’s my own fault that I am getting such a push to take any new position at all.  Mom means well, and I know she is somewhat informed by her own recent retirement from a similar company.  She got out of a place she decided was dirty, and so wants me to, as well.   Others that have suggested I just jump and get a second job or something to make up the difference also think they are looking out for me.  But none of them have to pay my bills, or determine what are acceptable compromises in my life.  

So in short, if offered, I probably won’t take the job.  And I know I need to tone down the complaining and maybe accentuate the positive a little.  That doesn’t mean I won’t keep looking at opportunities, but it’s okay that I am comfortable here for now.

 

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What will I do with all this blessed zucchini?

Make zucchini pizza boats!
squash 6

Our CSA membership has been bringing us an embarrassment of riches in the form of zucchini and it’s cousin the tasty yellow squash, and as much as I love it, sauteed zucchini and garlic is starting to lose it’s lustre. So, easy peasy, I made zucchini pizzas.

First I cut a small zucchini and a small yellow squash into fat planks, laid them on a cookie sheet wrapped in foil, and drizzled them with olive oil and a little salt, like so.
Squash

I then put them in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes to cook them slightly. After removing them from the oven, I spooned marinara sauce on them. squash 2

Next, I laid on pepperoni slices.

Squash 3

Then I covered with cheese.

squash 4

Back in the oven they went for another 20 minutes, until the cheese was bubbly and brown, and the house smelled like Little Italy.
squash 5

I plated up, opened a bottle of beer, and enjoyed a quick summer dinner. Low stress, low carb, highly tasty!

squash 6

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